Surrounded by wildfires, Lowcountry couple trying to make most of California trip

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Charleston local Sarah Eller, her husband, and a group of friends spent a day and night in downtown Napa surrounded by thick smoke.

The fires that have consumed much of the region’s famed wine country surrounded them, but the group tried to make the most of their vacation by enjoying the wineries and businesses that remained opened operating on generators.

“You just see the smoke so you're kind of oblivious to how close you are, but we were talking to some of the people who work at the wineries and it's basically surrounding us 10 miles away,” she told us.

She described the scene as gloomy because most businesses are closed, and most people have packed up to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

“It smells like a campfire,” she said. “When you look at it on the horizon, it's a huge plume of smoke.”

Only a handful of wineries have been destroyed, and with hundreds in the valley, Eller and her friends vowed to give their business to anyone still open, especially to a community ravaged during peak tourism time.

“We’re trying to put ourselves in the situation of when a hurricane is coming to what they're feeling right now with the fire,” Eller said. “We knew we were only going to be here for one day so we were trying to make the best of it and support these people.”

They went to as many places that were open, shared stories, and listened.

“People are just devastated losing homes,” she said. “The people we have talked to say they have their cars packed ready to go. Everyone here is wearing a mask. That's been kind of surprising. We know it's hazardous air, but everyone here is wearing a face mask.”

She heads back to Charleston on Sunday with a new respect for mother nature and for the people of Napa Valley, after experiencing something she said she’s never seen before.

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